Today's news -- June 9, 2017




Special session near failure as Negron makes demands

As a rocky special legislative session veered to the edge of collapse Thursday night, Senate President Joe Negron raised the stakes by demanding that the House restore $75 million in higher education vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott. Negron aggressively refuted what he called a "fake narrative" — that by appearing in Miami last Friday with Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, he had agreed to support terms of a special session budget deal, when in fact he had not. To bolster his position, Negron said his staff asked that his name be removed from a special session proclamation and that a suggested quote attributed to Negron not be included. "I wasn't part of what was occurring here," Negron said. The Stuart lawyer spoke to reporters for 40 minutes and he all but assured that the session would collapse today. That's because Corcoran is adamant that the House won't agree with the Senate to override vetoes of 18 specific college and university building projects. "We would be the first Republican Legislature that overrode a Republican governor on pork barrel spending. It's not what we do," Corcoran said, putting put the House and Senate on a collision course. "That's a principle we're not ready to violate." Negron's rant to reporters was an act of defiance against an increasingly hostile House. The day before, speaking to reporters, Corcoran accused Negron of lying about the deal, and repeated the accusation at a meeting of the Republican caucus. Then, after the House adjourned Thursday, he hinted that by overriding the veto, Negron was not a true Republican. "I don't know any situation where Republican legislators have overridden Republican governors on pork in the budget,'' he said. Senators have increasingly voiced their displeasure with the way the special session was convened, complaining they were being set up to rubber stamp a deal they had no part in making. Many had returned to their Capitol offices after session but watched Negron's lengthy press conference live on The Florida Channel. Negron reminded reporters that for a year it was Corcoran, not him, who battled Scott and promised to abolish Enterprise Florida and eviscerate the state tourism agency, Visit Florida. Now, he said, Corcoran and Scott have to respect the Senate's priorities, which also include a restoration of $260 million in Medicaid cuts to hospitals. "We're not just going to rubber stamp an agreement that two parties made without our priorities being taken into account," Negron said of Corcoran and Scott, who spent the day in Washington visiting the White House. "The Senate's united in not simply ratifying an agreement we weren't part of."


Funding for HB 7069 left alone after Senate backs off

Florida senators wanting a second crack at stopping a contentious $419 million education reform bill that narrowly passed the Legislature last month were unsuccessful Thursday in defunding it to redirect the dollars to general K-12 public school spending. Broward County Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer led the charge to undo HB 7069, after Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons — earlier passionately defiant — backed off his plans to force lawmakers to revisit the legislation during a three-day special session, even though it’s not on the Legislature’s restricted agenda. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, of Land O’Lakes, and his Republican caucus have dismissed the Senate’s effort as a waste of time and said even if the Senate approved changes to the HB 7069 funding, they wouldn’t support them. The bill is a top priority of Corcoran’s. But Senate Democrats cast Thursday as the day for the Senate to stand up for itself and “redo” the May 8 result when the legislation passed by one vote, 20-18. “I know many of you voted in a certain way because you had an understanding that this bill wasn’t going to be signed. Guess what? It’s about to be signed. This is your last chance,” said Farmer, D-Lighthouse Point, who has been among the most vocal critics of the bill. After the regular session ended, traditional public education advocates rallied for Gov. Rick Scott to veto the bill, which heavily favors private charter school operators through additional funding and friendly regulations. Despite that outcry, several senators expect Scott to sign the bill if the Legislature approves the economic development and tourism funding Scott wants out of the special session. Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, had planned to use the session to seek the Senate’s support for moving most of the dollars in HB 7069 into the general K-12 budget. To build support among his colleagues, Simmons had spent the last two days sounding the alarm about HB 7069 and its “fundamental and fatal” flaws that he says would force failing traditional schools to close — and their teachers to be fired — and let private charter operators take over. But Thursday afternoon, he withdrew several amendments to defund HB 7069 — submitting to pressure from his Republican colleagues, who urged the Senate not to derail a special session over unrelated matters. Simmons did so “for the greater good,” he said, but Farmer had his own amendments to continue pursuing the cause. Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said Simmons’ and Farmer’s idea to redirect the HB 7069 money “has some merit” but it wasn’t worth further acrimony with the House. “I appreciate the idea of the Senate standing up for what we believe, but we need to be mindful of trying to accomplish something as well,” Latvala said. “Reaching in and taking that [HB 7069 money] back and bringing that into the [K-12 budget] at this point in time is something we considered — and in the spirit to arrive at a solution, we made the decision not to go that direction.” With no other amendments approved, the Senate is poised to vote Friday on a plan it settled on earlier Thursday to add $215 million to K-12 general funding on July 1 using money freed up from recent Scott vetoes. The House will also vote on its bill then, a similar proposal but one that wouldn’t require overriding Scott’s veto of the previously approved K-12 budget as the Senate did Wednesday. The House and Senate have to pass identical bills in order for one to be sent to Scott for his approval.


Senator: Scott should veto, call another special session

Lawmakers are supposed to wrap up today a contentious special session that brought them back to Tallahassee for three days to resolve budget disputes over K-12 funding and jobs and tourism spending. But regardless if that’s successful, one key Republican senator says the Legislature’s work shouldn’t be over and that one more return trip to the Capitol this month would be in order. Senate Pre-K-12 education budget chairman David Simmons told the Herald/Times he wants Gov. Rick Scott to veto a controversial K-12 schools bill (HB 7069) — which Simmons has deemed “fundamentally and fatally flawed” — and call lawmakers back for a second special session to redo it. “That’s the solution that I and, I think, others would love to have,” said Simmons, of Altamonte Springs. “He doesn’t have to just say, ‘I veto,’ and therefore nothing will be accomplished. He can do what he did here.” Simmons said a second special session to revisit the myriad policies and $419 million in spending in HB 7069 would let lawmakers “fix the deficiencies and then permit us to get the benefits that exist in that bill.” “But we’ll do it the right way — in the open, in full, full view of the people of the state of Florida,” Simmons said, referencing the secret negotiations among the Legislature’s top leadership that yielded the bill in the final days of the regular session.


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